The Allerton Castle one sees today is a great Victorian edifice, created in 1848. But the site has been home to a number of renovations and rebuilds, gone through several changes of name, and seen some colourful owners. On a knoll in the park stands an elegant octagonal temple, which must have attracted the attention of passers-by on the nearby Great North Road (A1), but sadly it is seldom mentioned, and its history remains a little vague.
In the 18th century the estate was known as Allerton Mauleverer, after the family who lived there. In 1713 Richard Mauleverer died without a direct heir, and the estate passed to Richard Arundell. He commissioned a new house from the architect John Vardy, before he too died without issue in 1758. He left Allerton to his wife for her lifetime, before it passed to his cousin by marriage, Viscount Galway.
Galway already had estates of his own, including Serlby in Nottinghamshire, where he was employing the architect James Paine. This connection has led to Paine being credited as the designer of the temple at Allerton Park (as it became known as the century progressed) during Lord Galway’s residence. But although Galway was Arundell’s heir, he did not take control of Allerton until Lady Arundell (born Lady Frances Manners, a daughter of the Duke of Rutland) died on 27 November 1769, and as the temple is shown on Jeffrey’s map of Yorkshire published in 1771 (but crucially surveyed in 1767-70), the evidence suggests it was erected by the Arundells.
There are a number of potential architects of the temple, including Arundell himself. He is known to have given architectural advice to Sir Robert Walpole at Houghton, and was for a period Surveyor of the King’s Works (where he would have known William Kent), so he would have been perfectly competent to design a garden temple. Arundell was a great friend of Lord Burlington and shared his admiration for the Palladian style. He employed John Vardy, a close associate of Kent to design a new church at Allerton, completed in 1748. The work of all of these men may have influenced the design, and especially Kent’s temple at Carlton House in London, c.1735-6, illustrated above. But James Paine also remains a contender: he was at Allerton in 1754, and when Arundell wrote his will in April 1756 it was witnessed by Paine.
Although prominent on its hill, not far from the Great North Road, the temple was seldom noted by passers-by. There is a rare account in 1783: a guest at Kirby Hall, a few miles away, ‘rode through exceeding pretty grounds & a handsome wood’ to Allerton Park. He described the landscape as a ‘collection of little hills’ which gave views of the lakes. Some of the eminences were topped with clumps of trees, but in what he called ‘the crack spot’ was the ‘good Octagon building which looks over a very extensive and rich country’.
A few years later there was great excitement in Yorkshire when it became known that the Duke of York, second son of King George III, had bought the Allerton estate for ‘more than £100,000’. The Duke completed the purchase in 1786, and the following year hosted a grand entertainment for ‘his tenants, their families, and in short the whole neighbourhood’. He was also visited by his brother George, the Prince of Wales, for a weekend of country sports. Although the Duke sold the estate only a few years later, his association with the estate has become legend in the form of a nursery rhyme – it is said that it was on the Allerton estate that the Grand Old Duke of York marched his men to the top of the hill, and then marched them back down again. Readers won’t be surprised to learn that other hills across the country also claim this honour.
During their sporting weekend at Allerton, the Prince of Wales and the Duke were entertained at the home of Colonel Thornton, who lived nearby. Thomas Thornton (1751/2-1823) was a well-known figure, a great sportsman, and is remembered as a rather colourful character. A contemporary believed that ‘There is an insanity in the family of Thornton, which accounts for his eccentricities’.
When the Duke of York looked to sell Allerton it was Thornton who came up with the funds to buy the newly-improved property (Henry Holland is reported to have supervised works on the house in 1788). With the blessing of the prince, Thornton changed the name of the estate to Thornville Royal. It is probably during Thornton’s time that the little pavilion became known as the Temple of Victory (it is only ever called ‘The Temple’ on estate and OS maps) as it was illuminated to celebrate naval successes, including Trafalgar.
In 1805 the estate again changed hands and became the seat of the Stourton family. This time there would be some continuity and the family still own much of the estate, although the mansion and temple are in separate ownership.
By the middle of the 19th century the Temple’s original role as a banqueting house, or belvedere, had fallen out of fashion. As is so often the case with redundant garden buildings, it was put to work as a dwelling house. Throughout the second half of the century the diminutive structure was a family home for estate workers: first the shepherd was in residence with his wife and 7 children, then later the ‘cow man’ moved in with his wife and 6 children.
In the early 1980s what was by now called Allerton Castle was bought by entrepreneur Dr Gerald Rolph, who wished to restore and conserve a grand mansion. The temple and the land around it came into the ownership of Dr Rolph’s charitable foundation a few years later. In 1993 the grade II* listed temple was made secure at a cost of £85,000, with English Heritage contributing just under half of that sum. Work continues to keep the lovely little structure in good repair, and safe from the ever-intrepid vandals.
There is no public access to the temple, but it can be seen from the castle and from public roads. For more on Allerton Castle, which is a wedding venue and open to the public for tours https://www.allertoncastle.co.uk
Historic England commissioned new photography in 2019, after garden features in the wider (private) estate had been restored, and have kindly given permission for images to be used here.
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